Yahoo has named Google executive Marissa Mayer as its new CEO. While Mayer’s definitely a seasoned Internet executive — most recently, she oversaw Google’s local, maps and location services — she has never served as a CEO, or been deeply involved in a company that requires a turnaround.
So Yahoo employees should continue to brace themselves for more twists and turns as the company struggles to right itself, especially in light of its recent plans to cut 2,000 jobs.
Mayer, a software engineer who rose up Google’s ranks, has had great success at the Internet giant, which has been under increasing pressure from Facebook, the arch-rival that wins advertising from Yahoo as well.
Since advertising is where Yahoo makes the bulk of its revenue, Mayer will need to familiarize herself with that side of the business and quickly, because she stands a good chance of losing acting CEO Ross Levinsohn, aka Mr. Media. Levinsohn, who is also Yahoo’s executive vice president of global media, has worked at a number of large media companies, including News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media.
A Big ‘If’
If Yahoo can keep Levinsohn on board and engaged, a Mayer-Levinsohn combo could prove a compelling ticket. But that’s a big “if.”
Yahoo, which has been gun-shy about hiring a media executive as CEO since its horrific experience with former Hollywood king Terry Semel, has not fared any better in naming technologists as CEOs.
After Semel resigned as CEO in 2007, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang returned to the post. (Cue: Investors groan.) Yang played a key role in the decision to turn down Microsoft’s mega-billion buyout offer.
In 2009, Yang was replaced by Carol Bartz, a well-respected technology CEO but one with no Internet or advertising experience. Bartz bombed. She, according to sources, was clueless in addressing Yahoo’s large advertising clients and mollifying their concerns. She was dumped last fall.
Yahoo again went for a technologist by hiring former PayPal CEO Scott Thompson in January. At least he had Internet experience. Trouble was, he didn’t have the computer science degree he claimed on his resume.
Mayer clearly has done well at Google. She began as a software engineer, had a stint as product manager for Google.com, was director of consumer Web services and later vice president of search products and user experience before taking on her most recent role.
Yahoo is definitely aiming to make its site super sticky, so Mayer’s experience will be useful. To what degree her past Google experience was interlaced with the company’s sliver of media offerings — that rely on driving traffic for advertisers — isn’t quite clear.
Another Notch for a Woman IT CEO. Maybe
Women are crossing their fingers that Mayer will find success to further demonstrate the power of women technology CEOs.
IBM has its Virginia Rometty, HP has Meg Whitman and now Yahoo has Mayer. Success at the helm of Yahoo will help further the cause of demonstrating woman are artful CEO turnaround strategists. Hopefully, she won’t be a rerun of Bartz.